Gila National Forest
The Gila National Forest is a protected national forest in New Mexico in the southwestern part of the United States established in 1905. It covers approximately of public land, making it the sixth largest National Forest in the continental United States. The Forest also manages that part of the Apache National Forest that is in New Mexico which totals an additional 614,202 acres for a total of 3.3 million acres managed by the Gila National Forest. Part of the forest, the Gila Wilderness, was established in 1924 as the first designated wilderness reservation by the U.S. federal government. Aldo Leopold Wilderness and the Blue Range Wilderness are also found within its borders.
The forest lies in southern Catron, northern Grant, western Sierra, and extreme northeastern Hidalgo counties in southwestern New Mexico. Forest headquarters are located in Silver City, New Mexico. There are local ranger district offices in Glenwood, Mimbres, Quemado, Reserve, Silver City, and Truth or Consequences. The Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument is located with the Catron County section of the forest.
The forest's terrain ranges from rugged mountains and deep canyons to mesas and semi-desert. Due to the extremely rugged terrain, the area is largely unspoiled. There are several hot springs in Gila National Forest, including Middle Fork Hot Springs, Jordan Hot Springs, and Turkey Creek Hot Springs.
WildlifeGila is home to namesake wildlife that includes the Gila monster, Gila trout, Gila topminnow, several members of the Gila genus, and the Gila woodpecker. Other notable species include black bear, bald eagle, cougar, spotted owl, elk, white-tailed deer, osprey, peregrine falcon, bobcat, collared peccary, timber wolf, gray fox, white-nosed coati, pronghorn, mule deer, bighorn sheep, and wild turkey.
ConservationIn 2020, the U.S. Forest Service proposed allowing 21 herbicides within the forest, including dicamba, picloram and aminocyclopyrachlor. Dicamba is a threat to monarch butterfly habitat. ACP is a threat to ponderosa pines.
HistoryThe Gila River Forest Reserve was established on March 2, 1899 by the General Land Office, and was renamed the Gila Forest Reserve on July 21, 1905. The following year the forest was transferred to the U.S. Forest Service, and on March 4, 1907 it became a National Forest. Additions included Big Burros National Forest on June 18, 1908, Datil National Forest on December 24, 1931, and part of Crook National Forest on July 1, 1953.
Recreationis a area that is ideal for star-gazing. In 2016, the campground was given the status of being the first and only International Dark Sky Sanctuary in North America, and has remained so as of 2017.